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NORTHERNMOST AND SOUTHERNMOST POINTS IN UNITED STATES
TERRITORY A, Point Barrow, the extreme northern part of Alaska, latitude 71° 25' N.; B, Rose Island,
Pacific Ocean, latitude 14° 32' S.
Alaska are described in the accompanying extracts from the convention of 1825 between Russia and Great Britain, quoted in Article I of the convention of 1867 18 (see figs. 3 and 4):
Commencing from the southernmost point of the island called Prince of Wales Island, which point lies in the parallel of 54 degrees 40 minutes north latitude, and between the 131st and 133d degree of west longitude (meridian of Greenwich) the said line shall ascend to the north along the channel called Portland channel, as far as the point of the continent where it strikes the 56th degree of north latitude; from this last-mentioned point, the line of demarcation shall follow the summit of the mountains situated parallel to the coast as far as the point of intersection of the 141st degree of west longitude (of the same meridian); and finally, from the said point of intersection, the said meridian line of the 141st degree, in its prolongation as far as the Frozen ocean.
IV. With reference to the line of demarcation laid down in the preceding article, it understood
1st. That the island called Prince of Wales Island shall belong wholly to Russia, (now, by this cession, to the United States).
2d. That whenever the summit of the mountains which extend in a direction parallel to the coast from the 56th degree of north latitude to the point of intersection of the 141st degree of west longitude shall prove to be at the distance of more than ten marine leagues from the ocean, the limit between the British possessions and the line of coast which is to belong to Russia as above mentioned (that is to say, the limit to the possessions ceded by this convention) shall be formed by a line parallel to the winding of the coast, and which shall never exceed the distance of ten marine leagues therefrom.
The following paragraph is in the convention of 1867 only: The western limit within which the territories and dominion conveyed, are contained, passes through a point in Behring's straits on the parallel of sixtyfive degrees thirty minutes north latitude, at its intersection by the meridian which passes midway between the islands of Kruseastern, or Ignalook, and the island of Ratmanoff, or Noonarbook, and proceeds due north, without limitation, into the same Frozen ocean. The same western limit, beginning at the same initial point, proceeds thence in a course nearly southwest, through Behring's straits and Behring's sea, so as to pass midway between the northwest point of the island of St. Lawrence and the southeast point of Cape Choukotski, to the meridian of one hundred and seventy-two west longitude; thence, from the intersection of that meridian, in a southwesterly direction, so as to pass midway between the island of Attou and the Copper island of the Kormandorski couplet or group in the North Pacific ocean, to the meridian of one hundred and ninety-three degrees west longitude [167° east longitude) so as to include in the territory conveyed the whole of the Aleutian islands east of that meridian.
The consideration paid for Alaska was $7,200,000 in gold.
There is no possibility of misinterpreting the language of the convention as to the portion of the boundary running along the 141st meridian, but when the wealth of the area was recognized the claims of the United States as to the location of the part of the boundary
18 Malloy, W. M., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 1521.
from Mount St. Elias southeastward to the mouth of Portland Canal were questioned by Canadian authorities.
The coast of this part of Alaska is extremely broken, containing many fiords extending far inland, and no continuous range of mountains parallels the coast. It was for many years tacitly admitted by both sides that the second alternative of the treaty, that the boundary should be a line 10 marine leagues distant from the coast and following its windings, should be the one finally adopted when the question of marking the boundary arose. This position was taken by the United States and has been consistently held from the time of the acquisition of the territory to the present day. Many maps prepared before the dispute arose, United States and Canadian, agreed on it. Many acts of sovereignty were performed by the United States within this territory, and no question as to their validity was raised by the Canadian authorities. The discovery of gold in the basin of the Yukon in Canada, however, and the fact that the only feasible means of access to this region lay through United States territory made it extremely desirable for Canada to possess a port or ports on this coast as the starting points of routes to the Yukon mines, and it was only when this necessity appeared that a definite interpretation of the treaty was required.
The claim made by the British Government on behalf of Canada before a joint commission on the boundary in August, 1898, was that this portion of the boundary, instead of passing up Portland Canal, should pass up Pearse Canal, connecting with Portland Canal, up which it should follow to the summit of the mountains nearest to the coast, and then should follow them, regardless of the fact that they do not form a continuous range, crossing all the inlets of the sea up to Mount St. Elias. This claim was refused by the United States commissioners. A proposition made by the British commissioners to refer the matter to arbitration was also refused by the United States commissioners, on the ground that there was nothing to arbitrate, inasmuch as the territory in question was in the possession of the United States and had been for many years without dispute, such possession being in full accord with the terms of the treaty. The commission was then dissolved, the only outcome being an agreement that the summits of White and Chilkoot Passes and a point upon the Chilkat River above Pyramid Harbor were temporarily adopted as points upon the boundary.
The convention of January 24, 1903, created an Alaskan Boundary Tribunal, to consist of “six impartial jurists of repute," three to be selected by each of the two parties to the controversy, to attempt a settlement of this boundary question. The United States was represented by Messrs. Elihu Root, Henry Cabot Lodge, and George Turner. The Canadian side was represented by Baron Alverstone,
lord chief justice of England, and Sir Louis A. Jetté and A. B. Aylesworth, of Canada. After argument and discussion the majority of the tribunal, consisting of Baron Alverstone and the three Americans, on October 20, 1903, agreed on a boundary which satisfied the American claims. The boundary thus adopted may be defined as follows: It commences at Cape Muzon. Thence it crosses in a straight line to the mouth of Portland Channel (Canal], this entrance being west of Wales Island, and passes up the channel to the north of Wales and Pearse Islands to the 56th parallel of latitude. Thence the line runs from one mountain summit to another, passing above the heads of all fiords. At the head of Lynn Canal it traverses White and Chilkoot Passes. Thence by a tortuous southwesterly course it reaches Mount Fairweather and thence follows the higher mountains around Yakutat Bay to Mount St. Elias.
Lack of accurate maps prevented the tribunal from describing in detail about 120 miles of this boundary, which was described as the
coast boundary,” but by an exchange of notes between the two Governments amicable arrangements were made for the selection by commissioners of additional summits as boundary marks.
The survey of the coast boundary, about 892.7 miles in length, was completed in 1914. The line is marked by concrete monuments along the shores of Portland Canal, by 5-foot aluminum-bronze monuments in the valleys of streams crossed, by conical monuments on easily accessible summits (see pl. 2), and by brass bolts on peaks less easily ascended. Inaccessible mountain peaks on the line were located by triangulation. The report on the survey of the coast boundary is in preparation.
In accordance with the convention of April 21, 1906, commissioners were appointed under whose direction the 141st meridian has been established and intervisible marks placed along the line from the Arctic Ocean to Mount St. Elias, a distance of about 645 miles, the field work having been completed in 1913. The final report of the commissioners, dated December 15, 1918, was published in 1919 and is accompanied by an atlas containing 38 maps. The report is entitled " Joint report upon the survey and demarcation of the international boundary between the United States and Canada along the one hundred and forty-first meridian from the Arctic Ocean to Mount St. Elias.” This report contains copies of treaties and historical data relating to the location of the boundary.14
By Article XXVI of the treaty between the United States and Great Britain of May 8, 1871, the navigation of the Yukon, Porcupine, and Stikine Rivers, Alaska, was declared free for the purpose of commerce to the citizens of both nations.
14 See Foster, J. W., The Alaskan boundary : Nat. Geog. Mag., November, 1899, and January, 1904 ; also Riggs, Thomas, Marking the Alaskan boundary : Idem, July, 1909.